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Reviews of The Locals by Jonathan Dee

The Locals

by Jonathan Dee

The Locals by Jonathan Dee X
The Locals by Jonathan Dee
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2018, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley
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About this Book

Book Summary

A rural working-class New England town elects as its mayor a New York hedge fund millionaire in this inspired novel for our times - fiction in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan.

Mark Firth is a contractor and home restorer in Howland, Massachusetts, who feels opportunity passing his family by. After being swindled by a financial advisor, what future can Mark promise his wife, Karen, and their young daughter, Haley? He finds himself envying the wealthy weekenders in his community whose houses sit empty all winter.

Philip Hadi used to be one of these people. But in the nervous days after 9/11 he flees New York and hires Mark to turn his Howland home into a year-round "secure location" from which he can manage billions of dollars of other people's money. The collision of these two men's very different worlds - rural vs. urban, middle class vs. wealthy - is the engine of Jonathan Dee's powerful new novel.

Inspired by Hadi, Mark looks around for a surefire investment: the mid-decade housing boom. Over Karen's objections, and teaming up with his troubled brother, Gerry, Mark starts buying up local property with cheap debt. Then the town's first selectman dies suddenly, and Hadi volunteers for office. He soon begins subtly transforming Howland in his image - with unexpected results for Mark and his extended family.

Here are the dramas of twenty-first-century America - rising inequality, working class decline, a new authoritarianism - played out in the classic setting of some of our greatest novels: the small town. The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time.

They were saying that all appointments were canceled, indefinitely, that it was the end of everything, but why would they assume that? The subway was running again, for example, parts of it. So people must have been going places, meeting other people. So there were still meetings. So maybe my meeting was still on. I found the lawyer's card and tried to call his office, but cell service was fucked, still, after like a day. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't even ask Yuri for advice, because the phones. What if this meeting was still happening and I wasn't there? What if everybody showed but me? The lawyer had stressed over and over how important it was that I not miss it. Nobody'd told me it was canceled, technically, according to the letter of the law or whatever. So I put on my shoes. It didn't start for a few hours yet, but I had nothing to do, and there was fuck-all on TV that day, that's for sure.

Broadway was frozen, like a screenshot. Nobody ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The Locals fades away into a very post-modern conclusion; a more empathic, less raucous Bonfire of the Vanities, or the shadow of a ghost of the classic Spoon River Anthology: a portrait of a time, a place, a people. Dee's novel could find itself in the ranks of the best of recent literary fiction...continued

Full Review (767 words)

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(Reviewed by Gary Presley).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Starred Review. Good old social novels are hard to come by these days, great ones harder still. Leave it to Dee to fill the void with a book that's not only great but so frighteningly timely that the reader will be forced to wonder how he managed to compose it before the last election cycle.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Dee, who wrote about a wealthy segment of society in The Privileges, handles the plot with admirable skill, finding empathy for his bewildered characters. He creates tension as a reckoning day arrives, and strikes the perfect ending note.

Author Blurb George Saunders
Summons up a small American town at precisely the right moment in our history ... a bold, vital, and view-expanding novel.

Author Blurb Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog
Blackly comic, effortlessly authoritative, The Locals is almost criminal in its perceptiveness about the screwed state of the American union. Jonathan Dee is a modern American master.

Author Blurb Joy Williams, author of The Visiting Privilege
The Locals is an absolutely riveting novel that dares to prod us awake. Whoever has ears let them hear - indeed.

Author Blurb Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of The Liar's Club and Lit
In this moving study of how the housing bubble's burst sets a small town's citizens against each other, Jonathan Dee tells a must-read story for our age. Class struggle, tyranny, America's disillusionment after 9/11 - The Locals creates a delicately drawn world impossible to forget.

Author Blurb Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
There could not be a more timely novel than The Locals. It examines the American self and American selfishness from 9/11 until today. Jonathan Dee has given us a master class in empathy and compassion, a vital book.

Author Blurb Rachel Kushner, New York Times bestselling author of The Flamethrowers
The Locals might be the first great Occupy novel of the twenty-first century.

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Beyond the Book

Tanglewood

TanglewoodThe cluster of small towns in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts where The Locals is set is near Tanglewood, a fact referred to several times in the narrative.

The Berkshires have long been a summer get-away destination. There are lodges, cultural sites, and several historical spots, including the homes of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Steepletop), William Cullen Bryant (Homestead), and perhaps the most magnificent of Edith Wharton's homes, The Mount. And the great American novel, Moby Dick, was written in the Berkshires. You can visit Melville's house, Arrowhead, in the Berkshires.

1936 Summer HomeThe highest point in the Berkshires is Crum Hill, 2,841 feet, and the average temperature in the Berkshire County town of Great Barrington ...

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Read-Alikes

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